Apple is expanding the Apple Watch line. At its latest hardware event, the company launched the new Apple Watch Ultra, a device focused on the more demanding users who want something that they can take scuba diving, rock climbing, and camping. But that device is far from the best choice for everyone — and thankfully, Apple is giving the Apple Watch Series 8 a few updates too.
The Apple Watch Series 8 keeps the overall design as the Apple Watch Series 7, and retains most of the headline features. But it also adds a few features that could seriously come in handy for millions of people. As usual, it’s focused heavily on health and fitness tracking — and it comes in a range of great colors.
How much of an upgrade is it? I’ve been testing it to find out.
- Still great design
- Crash detection
- Better temperature sensing
- Battery still leaves a little to be desired
Apple Watch Series 8 design and display
At this point, it’s hard to imagine Apple will ever change the design of the Apple Watch to a flat-edged look. For the second year in a row, rumors of a redesign for the Apple Watch turned out to be false — and the Apple Watch Series 8 keeps the overall design as the Apple Watch Series 7.
Now, I don’t find that to necessarily be a bad thing. The Apple Watch Series 7 is very well-designed, and while the look is starting to age a little, the Apple Watch Series 8 remains a great-looking watch. You’ll still get the huge edge-to-edge display, and rounded edges, and the support for all the bands that you already have, if you’ve used an Apple Watch in the past.
The Apple Watch Series 8 is available in a number of color options, like in previous years. The aluminum model is available in starlight, midnight, silver, and (Product)Red. The stainless steel model comes in silver, graphite, and gold. We’re reviewing the aluminum midnight model.
The display on the Apple Watch Series 8 remains unchanged compared to the Apple Watch Series 7. That’s to say, it still looks excellent. It’s still an always-on display, and it’s still up to 1.9 inches on the 45mm model, with Apple’s Sapphire Crystal Glass covering the screen.
Apple Watch Series 8 specs and sensors
The bigger improvements to the Apple Watch are under the hood — but for many, they’re still relatively minor. For example, the Apple Watch Series 8 comes with the new S8 SiP, which may have a new name, but offers no performance improvement over the Series 7. That’s not necessarily a huge issue — the Apple Watch Series 7 performs flawlessly, and so will the Apple Watch Series 8. But it will be interesting to see the evolution of Apple Watch performance over the next few years.
Apple Watch Series 8 temperature sensor
More important than the processor improvement is the fact that the Apple Watch comes with a new sensor — a new dual temperature sensor that can calculate your body temperature to one tenth of a degree celsius. The sensor takes a reading of your temperature every five seconds during sleep, so in particular, it will use that data to augment sleep tracking. And, Apple will alert you to changes in your baseline temperature, which could be indicative of coming down with a sickness — though other factors can impact that too.
But the temperature sensor serves another purpose — and a seriously handy one. The temperature sensor will improve the cycle tracking feature to allow it to tell users when they most likely ovulated. This information can helpful for those trying to conceive or avoid conceiving.
Now, there are a few caveats to that. Unlike many cycle tracking apps and services, Apple will not use this information to tell users when they likely will ovulate. It will just tell you when you already did. That seems like a bit of a miss for Apple — knowing when you’re going to ovulate is much more helpful when trying to conceive than knowing when you already ovulated. Users could use the information tracked by the Apple Watch to predict for themselves, based on previous cycles, that seems like an unnecessary step that users shouldn’t necessarily have to make.
As someone who does not ovulate, I did not test this feature first-hand — however, I still would have liked Apple to take the feature one extra step further.
Still, the addition of extra sensors in the Apple Watch is always helpful, and we likely have yet to see everything that Apple will be able to do with this extra temperature sensor.
Like the iPhone 14 series, the Apple Watch Series 8 offers another new use for all of its sensors — crash detection. This basically uses sensors in the device to determine if you’ve been in a car crash, and will alert emergency services if you don’t cancel the call within 10 seconds. This feature is made possible thanks to a new accelerometer built into device — so it won’t come to previous-generation Apple Watch models.
Of course, I didn’t test this feature. I’m not about to get into a car crash for my Apple Watch review. Hopefully, we start to hear reports of it saving lives in the near future.
Apple Watch Series 8 battery and charging
Apple is focusing hard on battery life for the Apple Watch, and that looks to be paying off. The Apple Watch Series 8 offers a similar overall battery life under normal use — that’s to say, when you’re not in low power mode. That battery life could be better, but it still gets me easily through a full day of use, a night of sleep tracking, and part-way into the next day. I’m pretty good at charging the device when I shower or right when I wake up, but others may not be fully comfortable with a routine like that.
Apple has, thankfully, announced a new low-power mode for the Apple Watch. This basically turns off the always-on display, limits many of the health-tracking features, and limits the connectivity of the Apple Watch. It’s a drastic move — and means that you really won’t get as much out of your Apple Watch as you could. But, it may come in handy in a pinch.
The Apple Watch Series 8 charges the same way as previous-generation models. That’s to say, it charges with the Apple Watch charger, and can fully charge in around an hour and a half.
The new low-power mode is helpful, but if you didn’t appreciate the Apple Watch’s battery life before, the Series 8 won’t change your mind.
Apple Watch Series 8 software
The Apple Watch Series 8 comes with Apple’s watchOS 9, which brings with it a number of interesting and helpful upgrades.
Now, to be fair, I’m a pretty basic Apple Watch user. I use it for workouts and for features like the Apple TV remote when I can’t find my hardware remote. But I’ve kept the same watch face for years now, and most of what I appreciate the Apple Watch for has to do with what it does in the background.
Still, even for my use-cases there are some helpful upgrades. For example, there are a number of new running and workout metrics, and you’ll get more information on the display at any given moment, including heart rate zones. The are also new workout types, and the watch works with the new Medication Reminder feature built into Apple Health. And, there’s improved sleep tracking with the new temperature sensor, and with the ability to better track sleep stages, even on older watches.
None of that is to mention the Focus Mode-based watch faces and the fact that you can now create watch faces that use Portrait Mode images — which look great.
The Apple Watch Series 8 is an iterative update, but it is still a definite step forward. With the new temperature sensor and crash detection features, if you’re in the market for a new Apple Watch it’s worth buying. If you have a Series 7, then most won’t need or want to upgrade, but those with an older model could likely get a lot from the new device.
There is competition from other device-makers, but frankly, if you use an iPhone, you should stick with the Apple Watch. The real question is, should you go for the Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 8, or Apple Watch Ultra? If you need to save some cash, the Apple Watch SE. But even if you can afford the Apple Watch Ultra, I think most people should stick with the Apple Watch Series 8. It’s sleeker and smaller, and most people won’t need the features on offer by the larger Apple Watch Ultra.
Should I buy the Apple Watch Series 8?
Yes. It’s not worth an upgrade from the Series 7, but it’s still an excellent smartwatch.